U.S. Sens. Cindy Hyde-Smith and Roger Wicker talk before the Senate Policy luncheons in the U.S. Capitol on June 26, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Mississippi’s two U.S. senators — Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith — have not endorsed the gun safety agreement worked out by a bipartisan group of their Senate colleagues.

Both said they wanted to see more details before making a final decision on whether they could support the agreement, which was developed by several of their Democratic and Republican colleagues following the May 24 murders of school children and teachers in Uvalde, Texas.

“I look forward to reviewing the proposed language when it comes out to see if there are workable solutions to promote school safety and prevent gun violence without infringing upon the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun owners,” Wicker said in a statement. “As I have said before, I support efforts to step up enforcement of our existing laws and address the serious mental health challenges that lead to mass shootings.”

The bipartisan group reaching the agreement consisted of 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats in the Senate. If the 10 Republicans stay committed to the proposal, they would theoretically provide the 60 votes (including the 50 Senate Democrats) needed to pass the legislation out of the 100-member Senate. In addition Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, also has said he would vote for the compromise if it remains in its current form.

“Sen. Hyde-Smith, as she does with all legislation, would like to see legislative language before commenting on the gun control framework,” said Chris Gallegos, a spokesperson for Mississippi’s junior senator, in a statement.

The agreement includes the following proposals:

  • Funding to help states establish red flag law to make it easier for law enforcement to temporarily take away a gun from someone deemed to be a danger to himself or others,
  • Remove the so-called “boyfriend loophole” that allows a person convicted of assault against a girlfriend not to have his weapon confiscated while it would be if the couple was married.
  • Conduct more rigorous background checks of those under age 21.
  • Develop tools to federally prosecute people who buy guns in one state and try to sell them on the streets of cities in other states.
  • Expand the current law to require those selling multiple weapons to also run background checks before completing the sale.

In addition, the agreement calls for spending more federal funds on mental health issues.

“We are confident this agreement is not only going to save lives in the short run, but it’s going to lead to more success for the anti-gun violence movement in the long run,” said Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, whose state was the site of a December 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting where 26 people, including 20 elementary-age children, were killed.

“…What I know when I study great social change movements — and ours is one of those great social change movements — is that success begets success. That when you finally move that mountain, and you pass legislation that makes a difference, that in fact, you attract more people to your movement. You use that coalition for good in the future, and that’s what will happen here.”

Murphy said the agreement could result in “finally breaking the 30-year logjam on the issue of gun violence.”

Hyde-Smith’s spokesman was less enthusiastic about the new agreement.

“(Hyde-Smith) remains steadfast in protecting 2nd Amendment rights, supporting law enforcement, and protecting children,” Gallegos said in a statement. “Given that, she finds it difficult not to be wary of any agreement being praised by some of the same people who not long ago called for defunding the police and easing criminal prosecutions.”

The compromise reached by the bipartisan group falls far short of the gun safety measures advocated by many congressional Democrats. But those gun safety measures advocated by many congressional Democrats have nothing to do with defunding the police.

What is missing from the new bipartisan agreement but has been proposed earlier by Democrats is banning the AR-15 style semi-automatic weapons that have been used in some mass shootings, or at least prohibiting the sale of the weapon to those under the age of 21. Other proposals that still have not gained traction include enhanced background checks and waiting periods to buy many types of guns.

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.